Submission: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. – Eph 5:24 ESV

This scripture ignites controversy, frustration and/or confusion in many circles. I would love to explain to you why it ignites joy within me. No matter how many times I’ve thought through this post, I still come to my keyboard and think, “Where do I start?” Do I assure those with fears of the “s” word that it’s not something terrible? Do I bring to light the beautiful comparisons made in Scripture as to what submission really is? Maybe I’ll do it all at the same time…Well, here goes.

As much as I love writing, this one may come out a little scatter-brained. But try as I might, I cannot think orderly. My passionate desire to women in thriving, healthy marriages just gets me in a tizzy. I will say this, if you’re tired of reading or you disagree with me, please read the last two paragraphs as they summarize why I believe these statements are true.

What it’s not: Submission is not slavery. Submitting to your husband does not mean you are like hired help. You’re not being asked to do as your told, with no say in all manner of housework, cooking and intimacy.

What it is: Submission requires humility. The position of wife-hood was not created for commanding around. It was made for helping the husband though. (Gen 2:20-23) In the instructions for the church in Romans 12, Paul instructs not to think of ourselves higher than we ought to. If we are not serving our husbands out of humility than we are serving in a selfish manner, which will always lead to resentment.

What it’s not: Submission is not biased against women. 1 Peter 3 says to be “subject to your own husbands”. This means that your husband is your authority, but every other man is not. God did not make women less important, less smart or less useful than men. He did make us different: different but equal. You are not for other men, you are for your husband.

Nic and I on our 5th anniversary trip!

Nic and I on our 5th anniversary trip!

What it is: Healthy submission in marriage sees the reality of just two people working together toward one goal. You get plenty of say, but he calls the shots. It is what God made you for: mutual submission. Honestly in my marriage, IF we are both spending time in the Word and in prayer, there are very few instances in which we would disagree. In such cases though, my job is to support him whether or not I think it’s best. This means all the way through: standing by him and helping him recover if it was the wrong choice without a “told you so” attitude. Conversely our husbands are to try and make wise decisions, protect and provide for us.

What it’s not: The kingship of your husband. I know this is similar to my first point, but I want to point out the best part; the part that makes it all work. Your husband is under the authority of God and His church, and so are you. He does not have the last word. There are a few instances in which one’s responsibility to obey God’s Word may conflict with one’s husbands life choices. You are not there to help him along in His sin, especially when it means you are disobeying the Lord. When this is confusing (which it quickly does when you’re in the midst of it), a healthy dose of church discipline should be in order. Seek wise counsel.

What it is: A covenant to follow him as he follows Christ. Your marriage should never be about either one of you. It should always be about Christ. Having said that, I realize you may not be married to a man who knows the Lord. In which case, your (very difficult) task is to follow the Lord as you submit to your husband in order to show him what Christ has done in you. The best way for him to come to faith in grace is for you to show him grace as God has shown you.

The instructions in Scripture on marriage compare our relationship to that of Christ’s to the church. Our husbands, like Christ, are to love, provide and protect us. Whether or not that is happening, remember this my sister: Your are accountable for your actions. Not his. We are sinners married to sinners and every encounter gives us an opportunity to respond selfishly or selflessly. The more we respond selflessly, the easier it is for our husbands to get back on track when they are struggling. If we choose to respond selfishly, we can begin a cycle that can escalate into two people constantly looking out for their own way. Your way nor his way is right, but God’s way is. And God’s way brings joy.

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